Sometimes you really do just strike it lucky. On this occasion a last minute invitation down to the legendary 100 club in London on a Sunday night resulted in the opportunity to witness an artist with the confidence in his ability, and the ability of his band, to freewheel through a two hour plus set without the aid of a safety net, or a set list.
Glen Hansard has toured extensively in support of his most recent solo album ‘Didn’t He Ramble’ with sold out London shows at much larger venues The Shepherds Bush Empire and The London Palladium so to see him up close, the only way you’ll see anyone at the 100 Club with a capacity of 350, was a real opportunity not to be missed. A show the previous day at Rough Trade East in support of a 12” vinyl EP release for Record Store Day ‘A Season On The Line’ had been a success and Glen was ready to go.
Glen and his band: Pianist Ruth O’Mahoney-Brady, Double bass player Joseph Doyle, Violinists Una O’Kane and Katie O’Connor and Cellist Paula Hughes looked very comfortable and were obviously having a great time and the odd fumble or miscue resulted in laughter. Glen admitted he was relying on ‘muscle memory’ to remember how to play some of the songs this evening which went down well with an appreciative crowd that were with him from the first note. Apart from the music Glen is a bit of a raconteur and his tales of the previous night drinking in an underground Russian bar and collecting driftwood by the river that morning, which only works if the tide is out, was a fun moment. He even bought along the fruits of his morning labour to prove he wasn’t kidding.
In a small venue, blessed with crystal clear sound, Glen worked his way through a selection of material from all the stages of his career, with The Swell Season especially well represented, and threw in a few covers along the way. His vocal ability was incredibly impressive as the emotion in his voice shone through, gentle one moment then rising to a full throated roar as songs, occasionally, ended in a thunderous cacophony of sound. How often do you see a venue security guard, who’s seen everyone, nod his head and smile at the end of a song?
It is so hard to pick out highlights from the set but a cover of ‘Present Tense’ had me feeling I might need to re-evaluate Pearl Jam. Glen admitted the band only have diehard fans and there is no middle ground, but the No Code album was the one that did it for him. Other covers included ‘Astral Weeks’ which added a little Irish folk to proceedings and the crowd pleasing Bob Dylan standard ‘We Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere’ has been a popular choice for over forty years with many an artist. Glen switched from acoustic to electric for ‘Didn’t He Ramble’ which didn’t make the LP of the same name but has now found a home on the new EP alongside the bluesy, earthy and infectious stomp of ‘Way Back In The Way Back When’. The remaining tracks from the EP ‘Let Me In / Return’ had opened the evening’s proceedings and set the scene beautifully. Singer-songwriters with acoustic guitars accompanied by a string section and frankly I’m in.
The rarely performed ‘Ghost’ with Glen at the piano was an unexpected but welcome choice while 'Wedding Ring’ with gentle audience participation and a superb rendition of ‘Lowly Deserter’ reminded me just how good an album ‘Didn’t He Ramble’ really is. The gentle lilt of ‘Winning Streak’ coupled with the emotive passion of ‘My Little Ruin’ would further reinforce this view as they received stunning renditions on the night. The evening would conclude with a run through of ‘The Auld Triangle’ for which the band linked arms and each member, the guitar tech, opening act Gary Dunne and even the sound engineer all took a verse. An interesting piece of trivia is that setlist.fm credits the first performance of this track to The Pogues in 1983 at…..The 100 Club. A fitting conclusion to a very fine evening that will live long in the memory.
Gig Date: April 17th 2016.